Sexton out for Ireland's England clash

By Sports Desk August 22, 2019

Johnny Sexton will miss Ireland's Rugby World Cup warm-up match against England on Saturday.

The Leinster fly-half has been struggling with a thumb issue and has been left out of Joe Schmidt's team for the match at Twickenham.

With Joey Carbery absent due to an ankle problem, Ross Byrne will make his first Test start and hope to stake his claim for World Cup selection.

Schmidt has made 12 changes from the team that beat Italy 29-10 on August 10, with Rory Best returning to captain the side and Cian Healy joining him in the front row for his 90th cap.

Peter O'Mahony, CJ Stander and Josh van der Flier team up in the back row, while Conor Murray, Jacob Stockdale, Bundee Aki and Rob Kearney return in the backs.

Ireland XV: Rob Kearney, Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Bundee Aki, Jacob Stockdale, Ross Byrne, Conor Murray; Cian Healy, Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, Jean Kleyn, Peter O'Mahony, Josh van der Flier, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Andrew Porter, Devin Toner, Tadhg Beirne, Luke McGrath, Jack Carty, Andrew Conway.

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  • Rugby World Cup 2019: Sexton and Best lead the charge as Ireland prove their credentials Rugby World Cup 2019: Sexton and Best lead the charge as Ireland prove their credentials

    Ireland have never made it past the quarter-final stage of a Rugby World Cup, but on Sunday Joe Schmidt's side proved they should not be discounted this time around.

    A blistering first-half display was enough to topple Scotland 27-3, arguably Ireland's toughest rivals in Pool A, though hosts Japan will be no pushovers.

    Heading into the tournament as the world's number one side seemed somewhat undeserved based on Ireland's performances, with Schmidt's side having failed to impress in a poor Six Nations campaign, while they were hammered by England - among the favourites to challenge holders New Zealand - in a warm-up match last month.

    Successive victories over Six Nations champions Wales showed the talent was still there, even if this World Cup may have come a year too late for the men in green.

    But with Schmidt determined to end his tenure on a high and the quality in his squad evident, Ireland - inspired by brilliant performances from stalwarts Johnny Sexton and Rory Best - made their case in emphatic fashion in a rainswept Yokohama.


    Sexton's injury at World Cup 2015 ultimately proved a decisive blow, with the fly-half missing the quarter-final defeat to Argentina in Cardiff.

    He has struggled with injuries throughout 2019, having been taken off with a head injury in Ireland's Six Nations clash with Scotland in January before missing much of the World Cup preparation due to a thumb injury.

    Assistant coach Matt Taylor promised the press Scotland would "smash" the World Rugby Player of the year, but Sexton showed no signs that warning had got to him, putting in a superb display, organising Ireland's defence and entrusting the forwards to do the rest.

    The 34-year-old did, however, sustain a thigh injury, with Conor Murray taking over kicking duties and - should Ireland manage to beat Japan - Schmidt may be tempted to wrap his star man, who was subbed off before the hour, in cotton wool for the rest of the pool stage.


    Rory Best's captaincy has come under scrutiny in the build-up to the World Cup, though the 37-year-old - who will retire after the tournament - proved that there is still plenty of life in this old dog.

    His 12th-minute try, a typically powerful drive following a lineout, cast aside any doubts over Ireland's approach and the skipper, aided by Sexton, led by example throughout at the International Stadium.

    He became the fourth Irish captain to score in a World Cup match, while Best is also the fourth oldest player, behind Diego Ormaechea, Fakahau Valu and Nick Easter, to go over in the history in the tournament.


    "Their enthusiasm is something that's contagious, their ability to get themselves into the game," Schmidt said of Jordan Larmour, Andrew Conway and Jacob Stockdale, who were selected to make their World Cup debuts.

    Without experienced duo Keith Earls and Rob Kearney, who were not risked as they recover from injuries, Schmidt had no doubt over the ability of his new-look back-line and his confidence was not misplaced.

    All three players were composed in possession and in the ruck, with Conway adding further gloss when he raced over for a bonus-point securing try just before the hour.

  • Rugby World Cup 2019: Ireland 27-3 Scotland Rugby World Cup 2019: Ireland 27-3 Scotland

    Ireland eased to a 27-3 Pool A win over Scotland in Yokohama on Sunday after a dominant first half in their Rugby World Cup opener.

    With both sides looking for a strong start to surely avoid a quarter-final against New Zealand by topping the group, it was Joe Schmidt's top-ranked side who quickly accelerated out of sight.

    James Ryan, Rory Best and Tadhg Furlong all crossed inside the opening 25 minutes and there was no way back for Scotland, who also had Hamish Watson carted off with a concerning knee injury before the break.

    A scrappy second half was hampered by wet weather but Ireland claimed the bonus point with Andrew Conway's try shortly before the hour-mark.

    It took Ireland just six minutes to take control, with Iain Henderson charging through a series of tackles to get his side to within touching distance of the try line, allowing Ryan to finally power over.

    That lead was soon stretched further as Best drove Ireland forward at the back of a relentless maul following a lineout and, even with Ryan Wilson also able to get hands on the ball, twisted his body to touch down.

    Greig Laidlaw dispatched a penalty to at least get Scotland on the scoreboard, but there was no stopping Ireland and they too easily found space following a scrum under the posts for Furlong to get the third.

    Significant rainfall early in the second half added another dimension to the contest and slowed the attempted Scottish response.

    Instead, Conway challenged for a high kick from the excellent Conor Murray and ultimately profited, with the wing found free on the right to dance inside one challenge and score.

    Jack Carty, on for Johnny Sexton, added further gloss to the scoreline with a penalty, as even a yellow card for Tadhg Beirne - for failing to release - did not allow Scotland to belatedly reply.

    Irish power too much

    Scotland were largely able to match Ireland in terms of possession, but each and every error in the midfield was preyed upon. CJ Stander was particularly proficient at finding gaps and Schmidt's men were simply too strong for their opponents once within sight of the try line.

    Sexton suffering?

    Scotland assistant coach Matt Taylor had suggested they were going to "smash" Sexton, as they had in the Six Nations. In truth, they struggled to get close enough to the World Rugby Player of the Year, yet there was still concern for Ireland. The fly-half twice received treatment to his right thigh in the first half.

    Murray was handed kicking duties before Carty later replaced Sexton.

    What's next?

    Ireland face a potential banana skin against hosts Japan next Saturday, while Scotland have to wait an extra two days to face Samoa in their second pool match.

  • Rugby World Cup 2019: Italy 47-22 Namibia Rugby World Cup 2019: Italy 47-22 Namibia

    Italy had plenty to celebrate as Sergio Parisse and his team opened their Rugby World Cup campaign with a 47-22 victory over Namibia on Sunday.

    Not since 1991 against the United States had Italy started a World Cup with a win but that changed against minnows Namibia in Osaka, where the Azzurri scored seven tries to three in the Group B clash.

    Italy captain Parisse also earned a share of history, joining Mauro Bergamasco and Samoa's Brian Lima as only the third player to feature at five World Cups

    Eyeing their first World Cup win at the 20th attempt, Namibia struck first in the fifth minute. A sensational passage of play featuring pace and slick hands seeing the speedy Damian Stevens emphatically cross over, and Cliven Loubser added the extras in a memorable moment.

    However, Italy responded six minutes later courtesy of a penalty try and it sparked Conor O'Shea's men.

    A mix of desperation and determination kept Namibia on level terms until Tommaso Allan scored underneath the posts and converted his own try approaching the half-hour mark after a move that started in Italy's own half.

    Italy moved clear 21-7 on the stroke of half-time after Federico Ruzza's brilliant no-look offload allowed Tito Tebaldi to burst clear as Allan added another two points.

    Greeted by sunny skies in the first half, the second 40 minutes started with rain lashing the stadium and it benefited Italy, who scored two tries within seven minutes of the restart via Edoardo Padovani and Carlo Canna.

    There was another enjoyable moment for Namibia approaching the hour mark after J.C. Greyling charged into the far corner and Chad Plato also had the crowd on their feet at the death, after Italy pair Jake Polledri and Matteo Minozzi had crossed over.


    Italy show glimpses in pursuit of knockout round

    The Azzurri have never progressed beyond the group stage of a World Cup, but Italy impressed at times in mixed conditions. If not for some sloppy hands, the margin of victory could have been greater. It was, however, the second most points Italy have scored, behind the 53 managed against Russia in 2011.

    Namibia no pushovers

    Namibia enjoyable a memorable opening to the match and while they walked away emptyhanded, there was a lot to like about this team, who displayed plenty of grit and skill.

    What's next?

    Italy will face Canada in Fukuoka on Thursday, while Namibia take on South Africa two days later in Toyota.

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